Directed by: #SriKandula
From the outset, The Virtues of Solitude is oozing with self-importance. I mean, it’s called The Virtues of Solitude for Christsakes. Moody music plays. We see fancy serif white text over a black background: “a SRI KANDULA film” it reads, as though the name might mean anything to anyone. Then, “The spirit is not born, nor does it die at any time” – a quote that sounds vaguely good and bears little to no significance to the film we’re about to watch. We open on a library in black and white, shot upside-down. “Look how arty and sophisticated I am”, the film screams, “look at all these books and unconventional cinematographic devices, revel at my neoclassical piano score and my refusal to adhere to tacky technicolour”.
Then, a close-up on an eyeball because, surrealism. “Look at me”, the film screams again, “I am Maya Deren, I am Luis Bunuel. Salvador Dali may kiss the ground I walk on, for I have presented you with this: an eye. Sigmund Freud’s theories have been actualised in this; I have tapped into the very deepest recesses of the human subconscious and presented them here, can you not see? This here is the window to the soul, the most vital and yet delicate human organ. Imagine, if you will, a world without eyes. What kind of pitiful world would that be? And yet, you may never have to see your fears and your darkest nightmares as our protagonist is about to witness. Yet, whilst she may see, she cannot act, she cannot escape. She is merely a spectator. Note too, if you will, that you, yes you, are too a spectator, watching these perils unfold on screen. May Lacan smite me down if I have not reflected his greatest theories of identification here within this one shot: this eye”. If this point hasn’t already been gotten across, we then see a close-up of both eyes, and many more eye shots throughout.
The real problem arises when the film actually gets pretty good. The #cinematography, although it enforces the pretension atmosphere, is undeniably pretty, and sweeping camera movements as we follow a chase through the library are just brilliant. The film cuts between the two characters seamlessly, and we are left disorientated in this surrealist library chase. The use of the blur effect to hide faces is simple but effective, and the film manages to mimic dreamlike qualities in a fascinating way. Some moments are genuinely scary and dramatic. I certainly can’t deny the quality of the soundtrack – yes, I described it as moody earlier but it is honestly pretty brilliant.
Alexandria Stilley’s performance is great until she starts to speak – not so much because she struggles to deliver the lines but because the dialogue is so trite and cliché that Daniel Day Lewis would struggle to get a good performance out of it. Just as the film starts to get good, it delivers more of the faux-deep quote from earlier, reminding you why you were so frustrated with the film’s opening, and towards the end all the good qualities seem to fade award and we’re left with awkward performances, flat cinematography, sloppy editing, but still some suggestion that what we’re watching is meant to be good. “Love me”, the film says, “because I can no longer love myself”.